Making Peace with Eggplant

For me, they are kale, yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant—in that order. However you slice ‘em or dice ‘em, they’re the vegetables that I just can’t bring myself to like all that much.

It’s not that I haven’t tried these vegetables. Sure, I can chew them up and swallow, but I’ve never really enjoyed them, the way I enjoy green beans or sweet corn or broccoli.

But variety is the spice of summer, especially late-summer, when the farmers’ markets are bursting with plump, ripe, juicy, colorful vegetables. (We are so lucky to have access to this wonderful food!—as my mom might say). So, a few weeks ago, I did something I’ve never done.

I bought an eggplant.

I also bought yellow squash (against an internal reluctance and fear that it would shrivel up before I figured out a way to use it) and zucchini (against my urges to render it a sugar-heavy but delicious quick bread, best slathered with butter).

It was time my kitchen and I make peace with these vegetables, once and for all—or at least go down trying.

The results were so simple, they scared me. Eggplant? Delicious. Yellow squash? So flavorful! Zucchini? OK, so that one still might be better off in a super sweet quick bread, but not nearly as untasty as I feared.

The deliciousness came out with the help of a word that, all too often, gets reserved for meat preparation, a word that turns garlic cloves to candy: roasting.

Roasting is my new favorite kitchen verb. It brings out the incredible sweetness (think sweet-corn-sweet) of vegetables like summer squash. It concentrates and highlights nuanced flavors of vegetables like eggplant. And it even has the potential to override turn-off textures in vegetables like zucchini.

Here are the roasting recipes that have me sold:

Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Rice Gratin (Don’t let this recipe fool you. It looks like a sleeper but it’s one that just might convert you to fanhood of any problem veg in your life: one of the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten in a long time! I substituted yellow squash for zucchini—you could probably sub almost any roast-able veg—and used more parmesan than called for, because, hey, it’s parmesan.)

Roasted Ratatoille (Trying this recipe was my first experience with ratatouille, and I’ll be back! I ate the final product over pasta with crumbled feta cheese.)

Now that I’ve discovered these recipes and their delicious results, maybe roasting will even become my gateway verb for trying other ways of preparing the veggies for which I once held only suspicion and doubt. Maybe I’ll come around and enjoy the zucchini pancake recipe I’ve had my eye on. Maybe I’ll try my friend Alison’s recipe for pan-fried yellow squash.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even figure out a way to enjoy kale. It might be hard, thousands of miles away from the only cooks I know who’ve made kale in ways I’ve liked—my friends Kate and Beth in Missoula. (By the way, Beth is a gorgeous writer and has a new blog that you can check out here.) But I just found this kale recipe, and when soup-weather returns, I’m prepared to try!

If kale in soup doesn’t work out, at least I still have roasting up my sleeve.

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5 thoughts on “Making Peace with Eggplant

  1. That looks like a great ratatouille recipe. If you get a chance, I recommend Thomas Keller’s recipe for confit byaldi.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/13/dining/131rrex.html

    It’s fussy to the point of impracticality and easily one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. As a fun bonus, it’s the same ratatouille recipe depicted in the Pixar film (Keller served as a consultant). Good luck with the kale!

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